The Elements

By Andrea Schlapia   |   July 5, 2013

Seconds Away From Disaster… Without A Continuity Plan? (Part I)

Categories: Blog, Strategic Planning

Photo courtesy ©Wavebreak/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Photo courtesy ©Wavebreak/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Catastrophe for your business doesn’t have to happen when a natural disaster occurs as long as you have a strong continuity plan in place.  Your continuity plan should be a detailed course of action to ensure your business can survive a disaster and continue on in the aftermath.

I recently reviewed a continuity plan that was simply a telephone tree consisting of employee names. This is not an acceptable continuity plan.

Displacing Continuity Planning

Continuity planning is displaced because most people believe disaster will never happen to them. Businesses are reminded of sudden chaos when hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes,  fire, earthquakes or other natural disasters happen. Another misconception, succession planning and continuity planning are not the same. Your firm needs both. 

Computer viruses can cause an equal amount of fiasco as a natural  disaster, therefore, you don’t want to overlook something staring you in the face each and every day, literally.

After a disruption, picking up the pieces can be, at the least, very difficult for businesses. The Institute for Business & Home Safety report an estimated 25% of businesses never re-open their doors following a major disaster.

Is Having Insurance Coverage Enough?

Yes, if your insurance can safeguard your reputation and prevent your clients from going to your competitor whose doors are open.  Most insurance companies, however, won’t cover your reputation; your best bet is to build your continuity plan.  Here’s how:

Pre-Planning – Start With a Comprehensive BIA

Disaster recovery plans deserve the full attention of executives at the highest level of any organization.  Start your business continuity plan by creating a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). A BIA questionnaire collects all the information about each business function so it can be ranked in order of importance to your business.

Resources available for a sample BIA form:


The University Of Texas at Austin

A comprehensive BIA should include the following information and more:

  • A detailed description of all business functions and operations for every department
  • Which function loss will have the most impact
  • Time it will take the business to realize the function failed, both operationally and financially
  • The replacement equipment needed to recover from a function loss such as phones, PCs, software and workstations
  • Determine if the function can be accomplished by working from home or shifted to another area of the business

Additional Pre-Planning

Pre-planning research should also include data collection. Assemble important contact information and emergency procedures. Start building your continuity plan with:

  • Contact information for all employees
  • Contact information for all vendors and partners
  • Equipment inventory
  • Information technology data
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Insurance paperwork

Team Assignments

Without the right team, you can’t begin to recover your business. Employee contact information must include each team member within your firm.  A clear succession of management in the event some employees are unable to work is vital. Arrange a meeting place should your office become inaccessible. In addition, determine which team members have the resources to work from home or other off-site location if needed.

Appoint a team member to coordinate the efforts of creating a continuity plan. A successful plan requires input and feedback from all departments and team members within your firm. Ensure Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been completed for each function/duty of your business.  SOPs are a vital component within your continuity plan if a team member will need to fulfill additional duties. Read more on how to create an SOP.  

In addition to SOPs, each department within your firm should develop an individual recovery plan.

Include the Following in Your Continuity Pre-Plan:

  • Backup vendors and suppliers to provide you with critical resources and materials
  • A technology recovery plan – including storage at a secure, off-site location
  • Relevant passwords and codes assigned to appropriate team members
  • Arrange for backup tech vendors

It Doesn’t End Here…..

Drafting a continuity plan is a slow, methodical process. We will take you through each step in a series of blogs dedicated to continuity planning. Watch for our next series –  Seconds Away From Disaster… Without A Continuity Plan?  (Part II).  We will review your Business Impact Analysis (BIA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommendations along with preparing your team and clients for the unexpected.

Question:  Does your firm have a continuity plan? Have you ever had to use it? Let us know? We want to know!

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Andrea Schlapia
Organizational Development and Human Capital

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life.

Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.

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